service on the brink of collapse?
Three years of research and hardwork
go waste as Govt ignores reforms recommended by Tissa Devendra Commission
With regard to public holidays, the Commission recommends
a reduction in the number of holidays a year. Published below
is a comparative table.
of public holidays
Sundays and Saturdays the holidays make upto around 125 days.
In other words, the number of working days in a government
office never exceeds 240. The report recommends the adoption
of a system practised in Malaysia and Singapore where two
Saturdays in every month have been declared as full working
What's wrong with Sri Lanka's Public Service? A lot of things. For
more than half a century, Sri Lankan policymakers have made many
an attempt to reform the public service, but these reforms have
not been implemented or have fallen by the wayside after years of
research and hard work by the country's top brains.
Is the Tissa
Devendra Salaries Commission Report - 2000, which not only dealt
with public service salaries, but also recommended sweeping reforms
aimed at greater efficiency, facing a similar fate?
Public Service is a sine qua non for economic growth. The economic
success of countries such as Singapore and Malaysia is also largely
due to the Public Service efficiency achieved through bold reforms.
The Tissa Devendra
Salaries Commission, which is generally misunderstood as a body
that recommends only public service salary hikes, in its report
had proposed a range of recommendations aimed at improving the Public
Service. But sadly, they still remain on paper. Worse, the government,
in an apparent act of spurning the proposals, has now appointed
a three-member committee to study afresh and recommend salary hikes
for public servants.
an ad-hoc committee find solutions to complex problems within two
weeks?" asks a disappointed Tissa Devendra who also questions
the rationale behind the non-implementation of his committee’s
proposals which were drawn up after an extensive three year research.
(See box story for his comments.)
The Tissa Devendra
Commission, appointed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga during
the PA regime, has identified a paradoxical situation that has placed
the Public Service almost on the brink of collapse. It says that
while the Public Service suffers due to the dearth of professionals
and skilled personnel to fill important positions, overstaffing
at other levels is also adding to its burden.
It calls for
a strict check on creation of posts, a review of vacant posts, reorganization
of departments, closure of redundant units, restructure and privatisation,
use of computer and hi-tech office automation, a complete halt to
casual and temporary appointments and the abolition of all vacant
posts which are no longer necessary and a Performance Appraisal
As far as salaries
are concerned, the 2000 report recommends a minimum wage of Rs.
6,000 and a salary hike formula, by which lower level employees
will get a higher percentage of salary hike than what is given to
those in the higher-level. This scheme has been recommended to bring
down the ratio of the lowest-level to the highest-level from 1:8
Here are some
of the other recommendations of the commission:
* The salary
structure should be restructured based on qualifications, equal
pay for equal work concept and job evaluation, besides making
it attractive enough to woo and retain professionals.
* The wage
system should be flexible and should have the ability to respond
to economic conditions of the country.
* The setting
up of a wage policy.
security benefits such as as enhanced maternity leave, leave for
employment and study, a new medical insurance scheme, medical
facilities and housing loans.
should be allowed to work in approved and specified private sector
* The role
of the Public Sector trade unions should be re-invented to transform
them from political puppets or instigators to progressive movements.
* Women and
family unit should be given more attention. Women constitute 42%
in the Public Service and 56% in the Provincial Public Service.
Enhanced maternity leave for working mothers to enable them to
spend more time on motherhood and infant care.
management practices to be replaced by a broad human resource
development policy and a training curriculum developed.
report declares: "It is time we took a fresh look at the administrative
system in light of our present development change. The quality,
motivation and management skills of the administrative system must
commission was empowered to report on pensions as well, a separate
commission on pensions was set up later. However, the Commission
also has made some recommendations, calling for a revised formula
for pension and the creation of a pension fund.
The work of
the commission was of paramount importance as it dealt with the
whole of the public service, inclusive of armed forces, state banks
and semi-government staff who made up 17.3% of the country's 6.7
million work force. The total public sector cadre strength of 707,792
is regarded as one of the highest percentages in the region -- 3.7%
or 1 in 27. The high government expenditure on the Public Service
-- 25% of the recurrent expenditure or 5% of the GDP -- had made
it a negative factor in development.
also dealt with the problems regarding transport which the commission
identifies as a vital area linked to efficiency. "Public transport
should be developed to prevent the loss of many man-hours as the
time and energy spent in getting to and from the workplace is enormous.
Public servants often arrive late to work and in a physically and
mentally drained state, not fit for work. They should be able to
come on time to office and return to their homes without much difficulty,"
the report says.
Under the concept
of framework for future, the report proposes a permanent commission
on administration vested with responsibilities of cadre management,
wage policy, techniques of job evaluation, work system and procedures,
productivity and performance appraisal, professional expertise development,
training, regulation of salaries, allowances. etc. (Salaries should
be reviewed every three years.) The report proposes that legal provisions
should be enacted to limit the number of Cabinet Ministries and
posts sanctioned in departments and ministries.
It also recommends
that "future recruitment should be of multi-duty officers".
It also urges that Public Service Commission be given authority
to appoint Heads of Department. To provide a better service to the
public, the report proposes a Board of Arbitration and a "Clients'
the recommendations: Tissa
Tissa Devendra, chairman of the Salaries Commission, has expressed
dissatisfaction at the government's attitude towards the Public
Service and called on the government to implement the recommendations
in full and not piecemeal.
scoffed at the government's move to appoint a three-member committee
to look in to public sector salaries, calling it a "laughable"
matter. He asked: How could a three member committee do in two weeks
what the Salaries commission achieved in three years?
that the scope of the Commission was not limited to salaries alone,
Mr. Devendra called for the setting up of a permanent commission
on administration to address the issue.
he believed that the present government would accept the proposals
of a commission which was appointed by President Kumaratunga during
the PA regime, Mr. Devendra said it was upto the present government
to decide but added that it was President Kumaratunga who was the
head of government.
said some ministers were trying to implement some of the proposals,
without giving the commission its due credit. He was referring to
the government's move to effect a salary hike for doctors in the
aftermath of the recent strike.
He said that
it was with much care and diligence that they had prepared a comprehensive
report and if the government tried to implement just a fraction
of the recommendations, it would render the whole exercise futile.
On the issue
of risk allowances for doctors serving in danger zones, the commission,
he said had recommended an insurance scheme with a substantial compensation
package instead of a meagre monthly allowance.
He also said
that he did not think it was a wise move to increase the public
sector salaries by 50 percent -- a demand placed before the cabinet
by President Kumaratunga recently.
the perennial problem of public sector strikes, Mr. Devendra said
the county should adopt a Public Utilities Act -- as in Malaysia
and Singapore -- under which employees of essential public services
could not engage in spontaneious strikes.
Mr. Devendra who
has an honours degree in English from the University of Ceylon is
a senior civil servant who has served in many parts of the country.
He also served as the Chairman of the Public ServiceCommission.
to the many positions he has held in the public sector he is also
a well-known author on many subjects including Sri Lankan history
is Client’s Charter?
The commission recommends that every government institution should
prepare a "Clients' Charter", within six months. Clients'
Charter is a written commitment by state institutions towards the
provision of services in accordance with customer requirements within
a stipulated time frame. It should contain:
- all the
services provided by the specific institution
to the public as to the documentary requirements necessary to
obtain these services
- the number
of days on which the service will be provided
- the right
of a dissatisfied member of the public to complain to the head
of the institution, if the service is not provided as stated.
The Charter should be widely publicized and prominently displayed
in every intuition